To maintain the law and the balance of nature, Lord Shiva took many avatars on various yokes. In Shiva Purana, the following 19 Shiva Avatars are mentioned.
Adi Shankaracharya said, “Forgive me, O Shiva! My three great sins! I arrived on a pilgrimage to Kashi forgetting that you are omnipresent. Thinking of you, I forgot that you are beyond thought. In praying to you, I forgot that you are beyond words. ”
Different Avatars of Maha Shiva:
Lord Shiva was born in Rishi Dadhichi’s house as Piplaad. But the sage is said to have left the house due to the Shani deva’s positioning. So, Piplaad cursed Shani and caused the planet to fall from his heavenly abode. Later, he forgave Shani deva on the condition that the planet would never bother anyone before 16 years of age. Therefore, worshiping the Piplaad form of Lord Shiva helps to get rid of Shani dosha.
Lord Shiva is considered the protector of the herds. He is depicted as a four-handed bull. The two hands holds an axe and an antelope.
Veerabhadra was born after the goddess Sati set herself on fire in Daksha Yagna. Lord Shiva was extremely furious. Lord Shiva pulled a lock of hair from his head and threw it on the ground. Veerbhadra and Rudrakali were born from the hair. This ferocious avatar would have broken the sacrificial vessels, contaminated the offerings, insulted the priests and finally cut off Daksha’s head, trampled Indra, smashed the stick of Yama, dispersed the gods everywhere; Then he returned to Kailash.
Shiva Purana tells that the god Shiva assumed the Avatar of Sharabha (partly bird partly lion) to tame Narasimha, the fierce lion-man avatar of Sri Vishnu. This form is known as Sarabeshwara (Lord Sarabha) or Sharabeshwaramurti.
Ashwatthama is said to be the “The Vish Purush” sprung out of Shiva after he took Halahal during Samundra Manthan. He was granted the blessing that he would be able to kill oppressive kshatriyas. He will be born as Bhardwaja’s grandson and be raised as Brahman but attracted to Kshatriyahood. This Vish Purusha was born as Ashwatthama to Drona and Kripi.
The avatar of Bhairava was created when Lord Brahma lied about his quest for superiority, Shiva took the form of Bhairava and cut the fifth head of Lord Brahma. By cutting off the head of a Brahma, Lord Shiva was guilty of the crime of killing a Brahmin (Brahma hatya), and therefore Shiva had to wear Brahma’s skull for twelve years and wander as a Bhikshatana. In this way, Shiva would protect all Shakti Peethas.
Lord Shiva had taken the avatar of Durvasa on earth to maintain the discipline of the universe. Durvasa was a great sage known for his short temper.
Shuchismati was his devoted wife who longed for a child, like Shiva. The boy was well versed in all the Vedas, but was told that he had to die young due to planetary positions. His trip to Kashi was stifled by Indra, but Lord Shiva came to his defense and Lord Shiva blessed Grihapati saying that “even Kaalvajra could not kill you.” Grihapati was very happy. The Shivalinga he worshiped later became famous under the name of “Agnishwar linga”. Lord Shiva made Grihapati the lord of all directions.
Lord Hanuman Avatar:
Lord Shiva was so in love with the appearance of Sri Maha Vishnu in his Mohini Avatar during Samudra Manthan that his semn was released to the ground. This semn was established by the Saptarishis in the womb of Anjani, with the permission of Lord Shiva himself. In this way, the mighty Hanuman was born.
During Samundra Manthan Lord Vishnu deceived all the asuras by creating an illusion of enchanting beauties. When the asuras saw them, they forcibly took these charming beauties home: Patal Lok. After that, they regained control of the nectar that the gods had taken. While Vishnu went to annihilate them at Patal loka, he himself was trapped among the Maya and fathered many immoral sons who created an outburst for the gods. It was then that Lord Shiva took the form of an ox or Vrishabha and killed all the cruel children of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu came to fight the ox, but after acknowledging that he was the embodiment of Lord Shiva, he gave up the fight and returned to his home.
‘Yati’ means a sannyasi (ascetic) and ‘Nath’ means master. So this form of Shiva could largely relate to the master of ascetics. Once there was a man from the tribe named Aahuk. He and his wife were passionate devotees of Lord Shiva. One day Lord Shiva visited them in the form of Yatinath. Since they lived in a small hut that accommodates only two people. Aahuk’s small hut couldn’t accommodate Lord Shiva disguised as a guest, so Aahuk and his wife decided to sleep outside and let the guest sleep inside. Unfortunately, Aahuk was killed by a wild animal at night. In the morning, finding Aahuk dead, his wife decided to kill herself. Then Lord Shiva appeared in his real avatar and blessed her with a boon that they would be born like Nala and Damyanti in the next life and Shiva would unite them.
Krishna Darshan avatar:
Lord Shiva embodied the avatar of Krishna Darshan to highlight the importance of yagna and rituals in a person’s life. A prince, Nabhag, who had been prevented by his brothers from his part of the kingdom, had asked his father to educate a sage to get rid of all his attachments to achieve a yajna. When Sage’s task is finished, Angiras gives him all the wealth that is stopped by Krishan Darshan Avataar of Shiva. He showed Nabhag the meaning of greater spiritual success and salvation, and therefore gave blessings.
This incarnation of Lord Shiva protects human beings from all kinds of dangers.
Once, a beggar met a newborn baby near the banks of a pond and where his mother had died. While the newborn was crying, the beggar was hesitant to take the baby on her lap. Lord Shiva appeared as another beggar and advised the beggar to take the child and raise him.
Lord Shiva once took the form of Indra to test one of his devote. This is why he became known as Sureshwar. Upamanyu the son of sage Vyaghrapad meditated to please Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva, with the intention of showing his devotion, appeared there with goddess Parvati, both disguised as Indra and Indrani, respectively. They not only tried to incite him against Lord Shiva but also promised to bless him and fulfill all of his blessings. However, this could not attract the boy and his devotion to Lord Shiva turned out to be true. Pleased with this, the two deities revealed their original identities and blessed the boy. This form of Lord Shiva was then known as Sureshwar.
Kirateshwar / Keerat Avatar:
Lord Shiva took the form of a hunter or a Kirat while Arjuna meditated to kill an Asura named Mooka, disguised as a boar. Arjun’s meditation was disturbed by the sound and seeing the boar, Arjun and the Kirat struck the boar at the same time with arrows. A fight broke out between the Keerat and Arjuna over the first to hit the boar. Arjuna challenged Lord Shiva as Keerat for a duel. Lord Shiva was pleased with Arjuna’s courage and presented him with his Pashupata Astra.
Lord Shiva took this avatar to ask the hand of Parvati in marriage to from father Himalaya.
Lord Shiva took this avatar to prove the love of the goddess Parvati for him. After sacrificing himself in the fire of Yajna, Sati was born again like Parvati, the daughter of the Himalayas. As Parvati, she wanted to marry Lord Shiva. It was as Brahmachari that Lord Shiva had shown his determination to marry her.
The deities became arrogant after defeating the Asuras during Samudra Manthan. Lord Shiva did not like it because pride was not quality for the gods. Lord Shiva then presented them with grass and asked them to cut it. It was Lord Shiva’s attempt to destroy their false pride through this divine grass. As a result, no one could cut the grass and the pride was gone. This form of Lord Shiva became known as Yaksheshwar.
Avadhut Avatar was an incarnation taken by Lord Shiva to crush the arrogance of Lord Indra.